The Vampire Diaries Series

Sigh. When people talk about paranormal YA these days, there's a lot to choose from in the genre and even if I haven't read it all, I get the sneaking suspicion that most of it isn't brilliant. When it comes to The Vampire Diaries, however, I knew that LJ Smith and her series had been around before Twilight and that claims were made about how it seemed hard to believe that Meyer hadn't read Smith's series, given certain similarities. So while fishing about for something to read in the wake of the Vampire Academy books, I remembered The Vampire Diaries and now I rather wish that I'd just Netflixed the DVDs.

If you've read Twilight, you will, indeed, be able to see some suspicious parallels... but not so spot-on that it's inconceivable the two works could have been produced without any influence. That said, there are a few details that make The Vampire Diaries a little better... and yet I actually prefer Twilight. I'm not sure I ever thought that Meyer's writing style would be the thing that came out as the number one thing in her favor -- btw, have you visited http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com yet? you really should -- but I actually think I disliked Smith's style even more. It felt as though she was impatient to get through everything, wishing for wit and passion yet only producing a quick account, interspersed with teenage tantrums.

The Awakening sets us up with a basic plotline. Elena is queen bee at the small town high school and has never really been refused anything she ever wanted, though all of that isn't enough. With a tragic background (parents killed, she and her baby sister left to be raised by her aunt), Elena still manages to shine as a cold beauty with perfect high school gentleman and football star Matt on her arm... and yet she's supposed to be sensitive enough to know that she doesn't really feel that way towards Matt and so after a summer of traveling, it's time to officially end it. Matt, being a good guy, takes it in stride. Then, Elena meets the new kid in school -- Stefan -- and she wants to claim him as her own. The trouble is, Stefan doesn't seem to want anything to do with her... but just give it time. Meanwhile, Elena and her two bffs have been encountering some strange things in town. A bird that looks too knowingly at her. A strange presence in the graveyard that chases them until they cross the safety of running water, an attack on a girl in their class who doesn't seem to mentally recover. We've also got the emergence of a rival love interest other than too-nice Matt and in case you were wondering, it's not a werewolf... it's another vampire named Damon and he also happens to be Stefan's brother. It's a small vampire world after all.

The Struggle continues in the same vein (Get it? Vampires? Blood? Veins? Sorry.) except things are getting even more dangerous for Elena and her vampire boyfriend and... is there a romantic equivalent of "frenemy"? The book literally starts right off where The Awakening left off. Damon is even more interested in Elena now, though Elena is loyal to Stefan. I'm not sure if this wasn't an issue in the early 90s when this was published (but seriously, when has this ever not been an issue?) but why aren't they having sex? I mean, I think we get one scene where Stefan silences Elena with a kiss and I laughed out loud at its ridiculousness as there's a complete and utter lack of passion/chemistry with those two normally. They just kind of cling to each other with no other interaction that suggests two characters who are interested in the other as people. At least in Twilight you get blind and ridiculous devotion but that's accompanied with a stated interest in the other, whether that's believably demonstrated or not. In any case, the scene is getting desperate and Stefan is driven to great lengths to try and save Elena from his brother... but is it Damon that Elena needs saving from?

Well, surprise surprise. The Fury opens up with Elena as a vampire, having been killed by some mysterious force that wasn't Damon, even if Stefan thinks that Damon killed her. With the blood of both brothers in her (that tramp!), Elena "survives"/morphs into vampire mode (funny how everyone else accepts that she's dead even though there's no body) and awakens with a total devotion to Damon as the one who kind of turned her. This fades when Elena sleeps off the whole transformation thing and attends her own funeral, which ends badly when all the dogs of the town seem to gather and turn on the humans. Hm. Not your normal vampy behavior, so Stefan and Damon come to a reluctant truce to figure out what the heck is going on and continue to protect Elena. Naturally, Elena revealing herself to select people can be complicated, but we apparently need the whole cast of secondary characters along for the rest of the ride. The ending is PAINFULLY obvious to anyone who has read the rest of the books and I judge you if you didn't see it coming.

Here's the thing. I picked up The Vampire Diaries series with the full knowledge that if I read one, I'd read them all, but it wouldn't be that hard to manage, as they were each fairly quick reads. This remains true if you do not put the book aside to do something else, but once you do that... well, it's very easy to leave the book aside. I read the first two quite quickly (and honestly, when the last line of the first book is the same as the first line of the second, you know it's one of those things where you just need to keep reading, as the first has no closure whatsoever) and then put down the third at some point... and didn't care much to pick it up again until I decided I just wanted to write this review and be done with them. Sadly, there's a fourth book written after audiences clamored for more (seriously?!) called Dark Reunion which I'll have to read because apparently I hate myself but at least follow through on things. This is not admirable when taken to such extremes as this.

So if you want my recommendation, here it is. If you want real vampires, go watch True Blood and start reading Charlaine Harris. No, the aren't in high school, but that means they can have sex without panning away and it's a much more interesting choice that Sookie has between two vampires than Elena does. If you really want the teenage vampy thing, go to Twilight, then Netflix the first season of The Vampire Diaries (though I haven't seen this, so I can't offer an opinion), or try reading Vampire Academy, but be aware that it's a very different world and you're dealing with very different vampires. After reading LJ Smith's books, though, I am mighty suspicious of Stephenie Meyer (but hey, rest assured that all the freaky stuff from book four must have come direct from her crazy Mormon mind, as Smith doesn't deal in werewolves or vampire babies of any kind). Meyer's world goes far beyond the small town that Smith explores, but they have many things in common. It just seemed like very little happened in this series, and yet everything was written as though we were in a rush. I never felt like the characters were sitting still or getting to know each other (heck, I didn't even know why any of these people were friends with each other except out of habit and convenience). It doesn't help that I don't particularly like any of these characters to start with. So I can't say I endorse the series, but perhaps you'll find something you enjoy about them as many other readers have. As for me, I'll be impatiently waiting for the last Vampire Academy installment and hoping that Charlaine Harris starts laying off the fairies.

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